- Coronavirus pandemic
The government has delayed the easing of most existing lockdown restrictions in England until mid-July.
Here are some of your latest questions on this, and other Covid-related matters:
Questions and answers
The latest announcement on lockdown restrictions
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At our wedding reception could a DJ be in the garden of the venue and could we dance outside? From Michelle, Billingham, County Durham
You could have a DJ at your wedding and they could set up in the garden of the venue – but in reality it wouldn’t be that simple.
Venues have been asked to refrain from “playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, particularly if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult”.
Dancing is not officially banned at weddings in England, but guidance states that it should not happen – apart from the couple’s first dance.
There can be no specific “dancefloor” indoors or outdoors – in line with the current law which stops nightclubs from opening. Areas which would be normally used for dancing at wedding venues can be repurposed for extra seating or other activities.
These rules are identical to those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (although along with the couple’s first dance, Scotland also allows a dance between the couple’s parents – provided they live in the same household).
Will school proms be able to go ahead in England from 21 June? From Wendy Such
The rules on events such as school proms have not changed. Schools can host leavers’ celebrations for pupils but need to complete risk assessments and should remain mindful of sticking to government guidance for schools and events.
Organisers should make sure attendees do not mix in larger groups than six people indoors or 30 outdoors.
These arrangements will remain in place until at least 19 July, though data will be reviewed after two weeks in case risks have been reduced.
I’m 40. My next jab is not due until the end of July – but after Boris Johnson’s announcement, should I do anything to bring it forward? From Damien Thompson, Nottingham
In England, people over 40 and those with severe underlying health conditions can now receive second doses after eight weeks, rather than 12.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS would contact people to bring forward their appointments. Alternatively, you can rearrange your appointment yourself – but you must first cancel your original booking.
You can do this online, or by calling 119. You cannot see availability for earlier appointments until you have cancelled.
I am getting married on 26 July, how many guests can I have at my wedding? From Cherie Meads
From 21 June, there will be no official limit on the number of people who can attend weddings or civil partnerships in England – but venues must carry out risk assessments to ensure social distancing, which is likely to limit the number of guests who can attend.
The prime minister has expressed hope that remaining coronavirus restrictions will be lifted from 19 July. If that happens, brides and grooms would be able to invite more guests.
In Northern Ireland, the number of attendees also depends on Covid risk assessments. Rules are similar in Wales, but with indoor receptions capped at 30 guests. In Scotland, it also depends on which Covid protection level area your ceremony and celebration venues are in.
Does the relaxation in wedding numbers apply to both the church and reception venue? And what about other "life events" – for example a golden wedding celebration? From A D Oldershaw, North Yorkshire
Yes – the relaxation of wedding/civil partnership rules in England from 21 June does apply to both the place where the ceremony is held and the celebration venue afterwards.
But the only other “life events” which will be affected by the rule changes are commemorative events – such as a funeral wake, stone setting or ash scattering. Funeral services can already take place with unlimited numbers – as long as there is sufficient room for social distancing.
Other anniversary events or big celebrations – including golden wedding parties, christenings or bar/bat mitzvahs – can only take place inside with up to six people (or larger groups from two households) or outside with up to 30 people.
Are festivals and other outdoor events likely to go ahead? From Steve Williams
Currently, indoor and outdoor events can only take place in England if they ensure social distancing between groups and can limit attendance. The numbers are capped at 1,000 people inside, 4,000 outside or 50% of a venue’s capacity – whichever is lower.
In Wales, up to 4,000 people are allowed at outdoor events if standing (10,000 if sitting down). In Northern Ireland the cap is 500 people, while in Scotland numbers vary depending on where you are – in level two restriction areas, 500 people can be seated or 250 standing up. In level one, that increases to 1,000 seated or 500 standing, and in level zero, it’s 2,000 and 1,000 respectively.
When he announced the four-week delay to easing restrictions in England, the prime minister said 19 July would be the “terminus date” for the remaining restrictions. After that point, the government hopes there will be no Covid rules on social contact.
The Association of Independent Festivals says over 90% of all remaining UK festivals over 5,000-capacity are scheduled to take place after 19 July – but they say that the recent uncertainty has been bad for promoters and employees.
Can you have a birthday party in a pub in a Covid protection level one area in Scotland? Anthony Mackay, Berwickshire
It depends on what kind of party!
Currently, in level one areas of Scoltland, up to eight people from three households can meet inside a pub – or 12 people from 12 households in a pub garden. Under-12s aren’t included in the total number of people, but they do count towards the number of households permitted.
Table service is compulsory, and you must wear face coverings when not seated. You must be socially distanced from people you don’t live with. You can have music playing – but it mustn’t be so loud that people can’t talk at a normal volume.
I would like to know how many people can attend a birthday party on 27 June which is going to be outdoors? From Karolina
The rules for a gathering – such as a birthday party – outdoors, haven’t changed – until 19 July, you can gather in groups of 30 outdoors in England.
Within that group you can make a personal choice on whether to keep a social distance from other people, but you should still be cautious.
The limit for groups outdoors is also 30 in Wales although there’s still a requirement to keep a social distance of 2m.
In Northern Ireland the limit outdoors is 15 people from three households, while in Scotland the limit depends on your region – eight people from eight households in level two areas, 12 from 12 in level one areas, and 15 from 15 in level zero areas (most Scottish islands).
The number of people who can have a party indoors in England remains six from a maximum of six households, or a combination of two households (no maximum size).
How long does protection last after having two doses of vaccination? From Peter Collins
Health online editor
It’s not yet clear how long protection from the Covid vaccine lasts, but experts think it should be many months.
There are provisional plans to give booster vaccine doses to some people ahead of winter to make sure they continue to have the best protection.
Does the delay in easing the final restrictions also delay any travel review? From David Long
It depends whether you are planning to travel within the UK or abroad.
The government’s foreign travel review is not affected by the prime minister’s decision to delay lockdown-lifting in England by four weeks. Decisions on whether countries are classed as red, amber or green are reviewed every three weeks – the next review is due by Monday 28 June.
Meanwhile, the need for social distancing and face masks is also being reviewed across the UK – and the findings will influence any future Covid rules on public transport.
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What are the rules for two people from different households travelling in one car? From Richard Colbran, Burnley
It is not against the law to share a car with someone outside your household in England but government guidance suggests taking measures to limit the risk of transmission – for example, opening windows to increase ventilation, wearing masks and facing away from each other.
Guidance in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland recommends against sharing cars with people who are not part of your household unless there is no alternative.
If I have an outdoor gathering for 30 people, can I still have an additional six people inside the house? From Nisha, Buckhurst Hill
In England the rule is that you can now meet in groups of up to 30 people outside, including in private gardens. Indoors, groups of six people are allowed to meet (or larger gatherings where only two households are present).
There is nothing to stop two simultaneous separate gatherings taking place in one private dwelling, with an indoor gathering of six and and outdoor gathering of 30. However, the two gatherings must not mingle or interact at any point – guests cannot switch between the gatherings, in other words.
If there is any risk of interaction between the two gatherings – including through shared entry/exit points or the use of shared toilets, for example – they should not go ahead.
Why do vaccinated people need to quarantine after returning from an amber list country? From Anna B, Bedford
Even if you’ve had the vaccine, it’s possible to carry the virus – and with new variants springing up in many different countries, bringing a different form of the virus into the UK from elsewhere is a risk.
If you’ve had one or two vaccine doses yourself, you have a good level of protection and are unlikely to become ill with Covid-19.
But, without self-isolating, you could pass the virus on to someone who hasn’t been vaccinated or someone more vulnerable whose protection from the vaccine isn’t as high. Covid vaccines reduce the spread of the virus from person to person but they don’t stop it entirely.
That’s why the UK government has said people should not travel to countries on the amber list. It’s not illegal to go – but staying at home for 10 days on your return is necessary, unless you pay for a private test to prove you do not have the virus.
When will we be able to sing in church again? From Rachel, Chesham
Although some restrictions are now being lifted from places of worship, there is currently no timetable for a return to communal singing.
This is partly because communal singing in enclosed spaces is a risky activity during a time of Covid. It increases the risk of transmitting the virus because it involves people standing close together, transmitting small droplets and aerosols into the air, as well as breathing deeply.
For this reason, government guidelines in England continue to advise against communal singing in places of worship. Limited groups of singers are allowed to perform, if they can maintain social distancing at all times (amateur groups are limited to six singers). They should sing at the front of the place of worship to a seated audience.
Similar arrangements are in place for Scotland – in areas that are under restrictions at levels one or two, small groups of singers or musicians are allowed. In level-three areas (currently Glasgow and Moray) a single singer may be allowed to perform behind a plexiglass screen.
Northern Ireland still advises that only one person at a time should be allowed to sing in a place of worship “wherever possible”. In Wales a limit is currently set at six singers, socially distanced.
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Vaccines and vaccine safety
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Is it worth taking a low dose of aspirin to thin the blood at the time of vaccination to reduce the risk of blood clots? From Ranmali Fernando, Enfield
For anyone not already prescribed aspirin by a doctor, Professor Beverly Hunt, medical director of Thrombosis UK, strongly advises against this.
“We know if you take aspirin and you don’t need to take aspirin, the benefits aren’t very good,” she told the BBC.
However, anyone who has already been prescribed aspirin by a doctor should continue to take it before their jab, says blood specialist Prof Adrian Newland.
Anyone on anti-coagulant medicines (such as Warfarin) – or people who have clotting disorders – should speak to their doctors before having the jab, he says. They should also let vaccinators know about any blood thinning medications.
What are the signs you may be developing a blood clot? From Lindsey Handley, Caterham, Surrey
Doctors are focusing on several types of blood clots regarding the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
One that has attracted particular attention is a clot on the brain called Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CSVT).
It forms in large veins in the head – stopping blood from draining out of the brain. As a result, blood cells may break and leak into brain tissue – ultimately leading to a stroke.
CVSTs are more common, but still very rare, in younger women.
If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, you should call 999.
The UK’s medicines regulator – the MHRA – says anyone who has the following symptoms four or more days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine should seek prompt medical advice: severe or persistent headache, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, swollen legs, persistent abdominal pain, unusual skin bruising, pinpoint spots (not including the injection site).
How long after a vaccine can the rare blood clot develop? If it is three weeks since my jab, am I definitely in the clear? From Rushda Khan, Cambridge
Most cases have been seen between four days and a few weeks after people have had their jab.
Medical experts in the UK suggest doctors should consider this rare condition as a possible diagnosis for anyone who has matching symptoms up to a month after they have had the vaccine.
If you had your vaccine three weeks ago, you should seek medical advice if you experience any of the symptoms listed above in the next week or so.
Is the risk of clotting higher in young women currently taking the birth control pill? From Karen, Gateshead
Pregnancy, the combined pill and some fertility treatments have been known to put people at higher risk of clots in general. Some of these clots can be treated more easily than CVSTs.
The European Medicines Agency estimates that for every 10,000 women using combined hormonal contraception for a year, between five and 12 will develop clots in veins (such as deep vein thrombosis or clots to the lungs).
This compares to around two per 10,000 among people not using these types of contraception.
Experts recommend that otherwise well people should not stop taking the pill when having a vaccine.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is seeking further guidance from regulators about pregnant women and those starting fertility treatment. In the meantime, pregnant women are advised to discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their doctors.
I’m 22 years old and have had both my AstraZeneca vaccinations. What does this mean for me? From Kieran, Scotland
Since you have already had both your vaccines, you will not be affected by the decision to offer under-30s an alternative vaccine in the future.
If you have already received both doses, you might be in one of the priority groups for whom getting or spreading Covid could be especially dangerous.
People in the highest priority groups might be offered an extra booster Covid vaccine later in the year – similar to the annual flu jab which medically vulnerable patients are advised to have.
It is possible under-30s might not be offered an Astra-Zeneca booster if one is available, but we don’t know enough at this stage to be certain.
If I’ve had two vaccinations will I still need to take advantage of the free lateral flow tests being made available? From Elizabeth Woodward, Poole, Dorset
Yes. All the available data suggests the main vaccines currently in use are very effective at protecting people from becoming seriously ill – and in the majority of cases stopping people from developing symptoms at all.
However, no vaccine works for everybody who takes it, and so people should not think that just because they have had two doses of vaccine they are 100% safe – either from developing symptoms, or spreading the virus to other people they come into contact with.
Everyone in England can now get two lateral flow rests per week from testing sites, pharmacies, or through the post.
The government hopes that widening access to testing for people who don’t have symptoms will help stop outbreaks as lockdown is lifted.
How safe is the vaccine for young adults with Down's syndrome? Jane Chatfield
The vaccines available for Covid are considered extremely safe and there are no reports of serious side-effects.
People over the age of 18 with Down’s syndrome were among the first to be vaccinated as they are on the list of those considered to be extremely clinically vulnerable.
The list was amended in November, after studies suggested people with Down’s syndrome were at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they caught Covid.
The vast majority of children and teenagers with Down’s syndrome are considered to be at less risk than adults, although teenagers aged 16-18 have now been offered the vaccine.
Can I have the vaccine safely if I am allergic to penicillin? From James, Bristol
Health online editor
Yes. Allergy to penicillin is not listed as a clinical reason to avoid having either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the
AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.
However, when you are invited for your Covid vaccine, you should discuss your allergies with healthcare staff to make sure there is no other reason to avoid it.
Will vaccination teams have regular coronavirus testing, so they don't infect the people they are protecting? From Ivan Young, Romsey, Hants
Health online editor
The people giving the vaccines will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent the spread of virus.
Some will also have already been vaccinated themselves, due to their occupation as healthcare providers.
How do staff know that the vaccine they are giving you has not expired because of incorrect storage? From Keith, Loughborough
Every vial, which contains several vaccine doses, is stored frozen and has to be thawed and then diluted before people are vaccinated.
Healthcare staff will be given detailed information on exactly how long the vials can be stored in a fridge (five days) and when they should be discarded after being taken out.
Prof Jonathan Van Tam says these considerations make this “delicate” vaccine more complicated to get to people in care homes and to the elderly in their own homes.
But this won’t be as much of an issue in hospitals where vaccine doses can be stored in bulk and used quickly on staff and patients.
How can we be sure the vaccine is safe with such a short testing period? From Maddie M
Although it’s been done quickly, this vaccine trial hasn’t skipped any of the usual steps.
The only difference is that some of the stages overlapped so, for example, phase three of the trial – when tens of thousands of people are given the vaccine – started while phase two, involving a few hundred people, was still going on.
Side effects usually show up quite quickly after vaccination and longer-term effects are extremely rare – much, much rarer than long-term side effects of the virus.
Usually vaccine trials are slowed down by long periods of waiting around, applying for permission, funding and resources.
It’s those elements that were sped up, because of the huge global interest in doing so.
Will the vaccine last for the rest of your life, or will you have to have a vaccine every 12 months, like the flu jab? From Robert Parker, Warwickshire
Health online editor
It’s not clear yet how long immunity might last after
It is possible that people will need to be vaccinated annually
or every few years to have protection.
Is the vaccine compulsory? From Kim, North Yorkshire
No, people in the UK are not being told they must have the vaccine.
However, those in the most at-risk groups (over-70s and care home residents), and people who work in care homes and for the NHS will be expected to have it – to protect themselves and the people they care for.
Making a vaccine mandatory is not usually recommended because it can lower confidence in the jab.
What must people do after receiving a coronavirus vaccine? Carry on life as normal, wear a mask, adhere to distancing rules? From Mary Mullens
Health online editor
The vaccine significantly reduces the risk of getting seriously
ill with coronavirus. But it is unclear whether it stops people
from catching the virus or passing it on to others.
So it is really important that people continue with social
distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands,
even if they have been immunised.
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How many covid patients have long covid and what is the maximum time of the illness? From Bryan Thornton
Health online editor
It’s estimated about one in 10 people who fall ill with covid remain unwell two months after being infected. Long covid can last from weeks to many months.
Some people who were infected towards the beginning of the pandemic still have long covid now. Others have since recovered.
The symptoms of long covid are varied and can fluctuate. Doctors are learning more about the condition, including the symptoms that people may experience and how long these can last for.
Should I be washing my hair as well as my hands when I come home from outside (heavy breathing joggers passing me, supermarkets etc)? Asme Sheikh, London
On balance, this is almost certainly unnecessary.
While hand washing is very important for personal hygiene, none of the advice from the world’s leading health bodies – the World Health Organization for example, the CDC in the US or the NHS in the UK – places any importance on hair washing one way or another.
It’s theoretically possible that you could catch the virus if someone sneezed on your hair and those droplets found their way to your eyes, nose or mouth (for instance if your hair fell over your face).
However, research suggests that while virus droplets can survive for a couple of hours on some non-porous surfaces such as steel, there are few – if any – cases of Covid which can be traced back to being transmitted in this way.
I am breastfeeding my five-month-old baby – what should I do if I get coronavirus? from Maeve McGoldrick
Mothers pass on protection from infection to their babies through their breast milk.
If your body is producing antibodies to fight the infection, these would be passed on through breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding mums should follow the same advice as anyone else over reducing risk – cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, throw away used tissues straight away and wash hands frequently, while trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Can Covid-19 be transmitted through someone's exhaled cigarette smoke/vaping? From Michael, Chichester, West Sussex
Yes. It is possible to become infected by breathing in somebody else’s second-hand smoke or exhaled vapour – both of which can transport coronavirus particles on microscopic droplets of water vapour exhaled from the lungs.
In fact, the risk could even be heightened – with some scientists believing the virus might travel considerably further this way than when exhaled in normal breath.
However, a study found that the increased risk of virus transmission for the majority of vapers was much less than the increased risk from talking or coughing.
Government guidance for smokers says it’s difficult to gauge the risk to individuals – and, in the absence of specific evidence, recommends that vapers err on the side of caution and avoid breathing out clouds of vapour in the presence of others.
When venues reopen in England, they will be prohibited from providing smoking equipment – such as shisha pipes – for use on the premises.
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